Tuesday, 31 August 2010

10 Writing Resources You Cannot Live (i.e. Write) Without

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It has more crap than any library multiplied by ten could even begin to imagine having. Over the years I've collected a great deal of this crap and will share some of my favourites with you. These are all relating to fictional writing (I have a whole other list for essays, which I will post at a later point). I hope you can find use in them, either to improve, help or enable your writing.

Before you can write (unless you use pen and paper, naturally) you need a word processor. Sure, you can use MS Word, but if you're like me and easily become distracted by all the buttons, and spell-checking (and you just have to fix it right away), and thus make little progress when constantly editing, perhaps you want software that is a little more discreet. Q10 is my word processor of choice (and I've tried quite a few). Is has spell-check if you want it, but it can be easily disabled. It shows word-count, page-count, and other things you can count if you want to. And if that wasn't enough, it also comes with a nifty type-writer sound (which you can turn off, of course)! I highly recommend it.

Now that you have a word processor, you need something to write about. I'm not going to give you a basic plot, but if you run out of story, or if your story simply doesn't make sense: add a plot twist! Serendipity is one way of coming up with these plot twists. Could I interest you in a paranoid soccer mom who pulls the plug, all of a sudden? Or a hung over police officer who reveals a secret? Just choose how many plot twists you need and Serendipity will do the job for you. I, for one, would like to see a story with a plot twist with a melodramatic prince who brings cookies. Because who doesn't like cookies?!

Writing is a lonely profession. You sit alone in front of your computer, rarely even showing anyone what you're writing (at least if you're like me and think everything you write is awful, even when in your gut you know it isn't). To talk to other writers is then often very rewarding. I realised this during NaNoWriMo when I spent plenty of time on the forums. However, NaNo is mostly active during November. Somewhat of a comfort is the Absolute Write Water Cooler, a forum for writers of all kind. Here you can pose most of your questions without people thinking you're insane, and there are plenty of people active who answer throughout the year.

This resource is more for inspiration than for use during the writing process. This is a list of the 100 most beautiful words in English - and I promise, they are beautiful! You have to scroll down a little to read the list. Wallow in words like plethora, nemesis and scintilla, and just enjoy!

Douglas A. Van Belle's "A Comprehensive and Totally Universal Listing of Every Problem a Story Has Ever Had" is a highly entertaining and extremely true text on what makes bad stories bad, and how this could have been avoided. Some of the points should be taken with a pinch of salt, but in general the issues raised are based on real problems that many stories have. I'm sure you will recognise many when you read the text, though I won't mention any names...

 Write or Die is a service for all those out there who need to write but seem unable to sit down and produce something. With Write or Die you will have to write or you will - just as the name suggests - die. It will be horrible and painful, so make sure you write, and do it fast! You can set a word count and a time, and how severe you want the punishment to be. If you choose the most severe - Kamikaze mode - your text will actually begin to delete itself if you stop writing. So I recommend writing. Fast.

If you're a writer of Fantasy fiction this is the test for you! The Fantasy Novelist's Exam is list of common mistakes and clichés that many fantasy writers include in their stories. I suggest answering them truthfully (though it's on your own conscience), but if you make changes accordingly is up to you. I'm guilty of number 14 and 70, but choose to ignore that fact. My favourite is number 33. It will give you a good idea if your story has been written before, but again, this is something to be taken with a pinch of salt. I am sure many great fantasy stories share some of these traits and are still highly original stories.

Another useful software for writing is Storybook, a programme for organising your novel. You can pretty much organise it however you want to, i.e. write down facts about you characters, add a timeline, write notes on each scene or chapter, or however you choose to plan a story. There are also some statistics available, though I haven't had a need to use these personally. I'm not a great planner of stories (let's just say that I plan on post-it's that I leave all over my apartment), but Storybook worked well for my NaNo '09 novel, and I will use it again for NaNo '10.

Seventh Sanctum is a page with a large amount of generators of random facts and stuff you might, or might not, need for your story. There is almost nothing that cannot be generated at Seventh Sanctum, and there is even a category called "Writing". Perhaps the "What-if" generator could help you with inspiration for a short story, or you could use the "Symbolitron" for those obscure, hidden meanings in that novel you're working on. Look around, have fun, and generate!

This last link is in fact just an image, but it's a very useful one indeed. It is a list of 243 ways to say said, something all writers know can be very tricky without good synonyms. In order to avoid the "He said - She said" dialogue we all despise, use this list as a reference and you will never have that problem again. Good luck!

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